By Linda Bordoni
In a statement entitled “Understanding and peace, with truth and justice", the Catholic bishops of Bolivia expressed deep concern for the current situation of rioting and unrest in the country.
The statement, dated 31 October, calls for an end to the violence wracking society and encourages dialogue between the parties to resolve the conflict.
“We ask [leaders and politicians], the bishops said, “to listen to the people and to safeguard democracy, the only system that can guarantee freedom, the common good and development”.
The bishops also offer the suggestion that “a complete, agreed and binding official revision [of the vote] could be the basis for definitive dialogue.”
“Complete, because it considers all the stages of the electoral process and not just the final vote; agreed because it welcomes the opinion of all those involved; binding because everyone must commit to accept the results”.
The bishops forcefully condemn violence between authorities and citizens, and conclude by inviting all to pray for peace in a moment in which the country has a particular need for peace and justice.
Church at the service of justice, truth, common good
A subsequent statement, dated 2 November, by the General Secretariat of the Bishops’ Conference, categorically denies accusations by the Minister of the Presidency that the Church is responsible for promoting accusations of fraud during the election that took place on 20 October.
It defined those accusations as “totally false and lacking any foundation,” and reaffirmed that the Catholic Church in Bolivia “is at the service of justice, truth and the common good”.
The Bolivian bishops had already expressed their concern “over signs of fraud” in the election while they were in Rome in October for the Amazon Synod.
The vote count was suspended for nearly 24 hours after polls closed and then reopened suddenly to quickly give incumbent President Evo Morales an even larger advantage, almost enough to claim an outright victory and avoid a runoff election.
The election in Bolivia was expected to be close as Morales, the country’s first indigenous president, pursued a fourth – controversial - presidential term.